The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
Fay Magazine: Summer 2023

Faculty Profile: Philip Montgomery

Daintry Zaterka '88
Meet Philip Montgomery, who will embark on his thirtieth year of teaching music at Fay this fall. Though he has taught music in all ten grades, he currently teaches kindergarten through grade four and leads after-school piano and ukulele clubs. 
Philip’s joy in teaching music is rooted in his passion for continued growth. In addition to his master’s degrees in music and education, Philip is certified to teach in the Orff-Schulwerk and Kodály methodologies of music education. Kodály has been particularly influential in his work at Fay, focusing on training a child’s ear through listening, solfège singing, and Curwen hand signs as a foundation for understanding musical notation.
Philip is also an active member of the music community outside of Fay. He was the organist and
choirmaster at St. Mark’s Church in Southborough for 15 years and is currently Associate Artistic
Director of the Worcester Children’s Chorus. In the summer, he is a faculty member of the Kodály Music Institute at Anna Maria College, where he teaches other music instructors how to teach music. We sat down with Philip to discuss his role at Fay and the rewards of teaching Fay’s youngest musicians.
What has kept you engaged in teaching music at Fay for almost thirty years?
What makes me tick is seeing the kids evolve and knowing that I have evolved and grown in parallel with them. I look forward to seeing the student I had in Kindergarten pick up a horn in fifth grade. Similarly, I’ve done two master’s degrees outside of school–a performance degree and an education degree–and I’ve always been a professional musician.
You are known for using your professional development experiences to enrich Fay’s music program. What is something new that you brought to your classroom this year?
I took a ukulele course last summer through the Kodály Music Institute and immediately saw the classroom applications. In my fourth grade class, we played the ukulele from the beginning of May to the end of the year. We made music in many different ways, and while some students were not necessarily interested in the music theory, I snuck it in there, and they loved it! I also started an after-school ukulele club this year.
What is unique about the early years of Fay’s music program?
It’s a luxury that I get to teach Kindergarten through grade four. When they arrive in Fay’s Primary School, I introduce them to songs that come with games, because that’s what’s appealing to them. Little do they know that later I will pick apart the phrases for the rhythms and the melodies. In second grade, they begin singing the intervals of the songs and study their forms. Some of the same music reappears in the third grade, but for the recorder where they have to know the absolute letters on the staff and the fingerings. I might pull out a song on the ukulele with fourth graders that I teach in an earlier grade, but instead of playing the game, the challenge is to play the song on the ukulele’s open strings. I know so many public school teachers who only teach a couple of grades, and they don’t enjoy the continuum of repertoire with their students.
What would parents be surprised to learn about your classroom?
Parents often wonder what we could be doing in second grade music! But when they come in on Parent Class Visiting Day and see what we’re up to, they are surprised. I had a parent visit, and afterward, they said, “Your class is hard! We had no idea you wanted our kids to be able to read music!”
Aside from music literacy skills, what do you hope students will take from your class?
One of my favorite anecdotes is from a few years back. A group of Upper School boys was using my music room for a Bass Chorale rehearsal, and I could hear them talking from my office. They hadn’t been in my room for a long time, and I overheard one of the students say, “I remember this room. This was the fun room!” Whether or not they remember all of the music theory is not always the ultimate goal. If they remember that learning music in my classroom was a joyful experience, I know I’ve done my job. It is my hope that they will be joyful makers of music for a lifetime.

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